Have you ever stopped to think about what your WLAN is saying about you and your organization? I just finished watching a TEDx Talk called 'What your designs say about you' by Sebastian Deterding, and I completely agree that our values and morals are continually commmunicated to others by the way we design things. So I ask again, what is your WLAN saying about you?
What are your company values?
Almost every business/organization I have encountered has had a list of values splashed on the company website or physically posted somewhere in the office. Think about your organization. What are your stated values? (Here are a few common examples: respect, innovation, honesty, connectedness, empowerment, security...)
Have you found your corporate values yet? Good. Now, if you offer some form of amenity/guest wireless access, I want you to ask yourself if the design of that network actually follows the values you've claimed to hold dear. Does the end-user experience communicate that you are a company that cares about innovation, security, respect, etc?
For example, if you claim to value security, do you offer secure guest access or just cleartext (unencrypted) access and tell guests they need to worry about their own security? If that's the case, then your guest WLAN is communicating that you don't actually care about security; you care about your own security. There's a difference and it is noticable.
Another example: If you claim to value innovation or connectedness, do you offer guest access that is actually fast and stable enough to use? Or do you offer an end-user experience that is slower than dial-up with major coverage/capacity issues just so you can publicly advertise that you have 'guest wireless access'? If that's the case, then your WLAN is really saying that you either do not understand what innovation or connectness are, or that you are really just too cheap to extend that value to non-employees. Either way, it's not a good message to be sending.
I could go on but I think that's enough bad examples.
Now Is Your Time To Shine
I'm sorry to say, but most guest networks I come across have severely betrayed the image that the company offering them has tried to foster for itself. They are usually slow, unstable, insecure, and require extraordinary hoop-jumping abilities just to get connected. Imagine what it would be like if your WLAN reflected just how awesome you really were!
If your corporation claims to value
- security, then offer guests a secure solution. Don't tell them they are on their own. Show them that you care about more than just your own security; you care about their security as well. There are many ways to provide at least some kind of secure connection: PSK, PPSK, DPSK, captive portal provisioning of credentials just to name a few.
- innovation or connectedness, then offer a guests access solution that allows them to actually accomplish something while connected to your network. Dial-up speeds are not innovative. If anything, dial-up speeds are a slap in the face.
- respect, then offer access that shows how much you respect their patronage. That means creating an end-user experience that doesn't require twenty clicks, and a reboot just to get connected. (Yes, I'm exaggerating here but you get the point.) Offer an easy-to-connect-to service that is stable and available in the areas where your guests actually want to use the service.
With the current state of most amenity/guest networks, it is really easy for you to stand out. Your company is awesome. Why not be known for sharing an awesome wireless access solution and extending your corporate values beyond just your executives and employees. Be the company that offers a guest access service that says "We offer this service because we respect you and genuinely want you to have a good experience" instead the one that says "We want your money and we offer this cheap service because all of our competitors do".
Your WLAN is saying something about you. It's up to you to shape and guide that conversation in a way that benefits everyone.